Passion for animals

Volunteer works at shelter daily

MANISTEE — He does it all.

As a full-time volunteer at the Homeward Bound Animal Shelter, John Staron does everything from walking dogs to cleaning cages to landscaping. He’s there eight hours a day, seven days a week.

“These animals in here know him, and if they’re new they learn to know him,” said Shaleen Edmondson, shelter manager. “They see him every day. They see him with his leash in his hand, and they’re ready to go. Every one of these dogs loves him. Even they know, he’s a dedicated person. They look forward to seeing John.”

The dogs that normally bark when people are around are calm and happy when they see Staron, and the cats that shy away from most people run up to him meowing.

Staron began volunteering more than two years ago, and has gradually increased his involvement. He began with dog walking, and soon added maintenance and landscaping. A while later, he began to help out with cleaning outside. Most recently, he began cleaning the inside portion of some kennels.

“He’s very valuable to us,” Edmondson said. “For as much as John is doing as far as helping with walking the animals and working with them, he’s also cleaning inside. It’d be nice if we had other people coming in to do cleaning, or to work with cats in morning. We always need volunteers.”

Some of the work Staron does was previously part of a paid position.

But Staron said it’s not a job to him.

“I don’t look at it as a job,” he said. “I look at as doing volunteer work, and helping the shelter out with its needs, which are dog walking, cleaning and I’ll donate money. I’ll help them with the food and stuff like that. …  This is a passion. I just care about this place.”

Even before he began volunteering, Staron was contributing financially. It took convincing from a dedicated volunteer, Pat Fragomeli, to get him in the shelter, he said.

An incident that caused his nephew’s pit bull mix to be euthanized finally motivated him to work with the shelter dogs, Staron said.

“Once he got a taste of it, he was here everyday,” Fragomeli said. “He made it his life.”

Staron said he has a passion for pit bull mixes, although he loves all the dogs and cats that spend time in the shelter.

“Most of these dogs here are great pets; some of them don’t even have to be worked with, they just fit into the family automatically,” Staron said. “There’s just been a lot of good people coming here adopting these great dogs. It does make me happy to see that.”

What Staron really wants is for there to be more people like him at the shelter, he said.

“I’m sure there’s other individuals out there in this county who can do what I’m doing, but they’re not motivated by anything,” Staron said. “If they were, they’d be here. This is a no-kill shelter. There should be more people out here helping this place. … This should be a gem of the community, and people should really support this place.”

Staron’s support goes as far as purchasing and hanging tarps to help shelter the dogs from wind when they’re outside, and shoveling paths inside the yards so the dogs don’t have to walk in deep snow.

“He shows up everyday,” Edmondson said. “He’s here from open to close; he’s just always here.”

Other dedicated volunteers are Lorrie Manthei and George Goodrich, however, Edmondson said there can never be too many.

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Posted by Justine McGuire

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